Gender in Witchcraft, pt. 1

Last year I read a post (which I can’t find anymore) about devotional tips to Frigg. The writer wrote a note at the top of the post stating that they would be referring to Frigg as “They”, since the Gods don’t adhere to our human binary of “male” and “female”. It was such a simple sentence, but it was such an impactful thing for me. I’d never thought of it that way. But to me, it made perfect sense. So I accepted it, and then never looked any deeper into it. Never thought further about what that would mean for me, or my craft.

That changed earlier this year. I was feeling a call to deepen the relation I have with the deities I am devoted to. Which led to me researching and redefining my bond with whom I then still called Horned One. As I wrote in an earlier post, I still very much saw Him as an archetype of the divine masculine. The God to complement the Goddess, which was a paradigm left over from my earlier wiccan-adjacent roots. It didn’t mesh with my earlier found beliefs that Gods are outside of our human gender structures. I couldn’t wrap my hear around it. Which meant one thing: research.

Because why does everything in western witchcraft practices have to adhere to a binary gender system? Why do we have a “divine feminine” and a “divine masculine” when it comes to our inner worlds? And further than that, why does seemingly everything in western witchcraft need to be gendered? Open any book on modern witchcraft and you’ll see gender assigned to everything. To the elements, to the days of the week, to crystals, to herbs, to planets, to runes, everything has a gender or gendered “energy” attached to it. I’ve found, especially in witchcraft and paganism, that when we want to figure out “why?” we need to ask: “where does it come from?”

It seems to start with the Greek philosopher Empedocles. He is the one who gave us the four elements that make up all matter: earth, air, fire and water. The elements are a big part of modern witchcraft, especially the wiccan traditions, or the traditions which have their roots in wicca. We call upon the elements to protect us when we cast a circle. We use the elements to bless and consecrate items. Just to name a few. Empedocles not only posited that all matter was made up out of these four elements, but he also linked them to the Gods Zeus, Hera, Nestis (Persephone) and Aidoneus (Hades). So we have two elements tied to a God, and two to a Goddess. This is where the belief that the elements are either “feminine” or “masculine” probably originates. It’s not a strange thought that this could have easily been stretched: if the elements are “feminine” or “masculine”, and things like crystals or herbs are associated with the elements, then they are also “feminine” or “masculine”.

Of course the influence of monotheistic religions can not be ignored. Our western society gets a lot of its views from Christianity. In the Christian bible God created Adam and Eve, one man and one woman. A strong binary where there is no room for deviation. It is also seen as an ideal to strive towards: a husband and wife, standing in the light of God, who together can create new life. This monotheistic view has been part of our western culture for millennia, which has influenced a lot of scholars, philosophers, artist, etc. Which in turn influences the information that we have access to now. Everything we know about our ancestors is written later, often by Christian scholars or even monks, who wrote from their (gender-binary and patriarchal) worldview.

Then of course we have the beginnings of our contemporary witchcraft: wicca and Gerald Gardner. In the wiccan faith a God and a Goddess are worshipped. Some believe them to be source of all life, others believe they are facets or avatars of a bigger force (Spirit, the All, etc.). The Triple Goddess stands for the phases of a woman’s life: the maiden, the mother and the crone. She also embodies the “feminine energies” such as nurturing, giving, sensual, loving, and wise. The Horned God is the masculine aspects, such as providing, protecting, strengthening, sexual, and also wise.
Covens are led by a High Priest (HP) and a High Priestess (HPs), where in Gardner’s days they took part in a ritual called “the Hieros Gamos” or “the Great Rite”, where the HP and HPs engaged in sexual intercourse to raise power, or as part of an initiation rite. Because, as our tradition’s wiccan inspired ritual states:  “where the masculine and feminine are joined, spirit is born.” Nowadays this is mostly done symbolically with a chalice and an athame, luckily, since Gardner is known to have “asked” High Priestesses to step aside when they were no longer young and beautiful in his eyes, which… ew.
The God and Goddess also complete a life cycle in the Wheel of the Year. The God impregnates the Goddess, after which he travels to the underworld and is born again from Her womb. Because of this, life will begin anew and nature will grow once more. Heterosexual procreation and that bond between man and woman is very important in the wiccan faith. The duality of male and female; and together they create life, is very ingrained into our modern, contemporary paganism because of this.

Then, we need to talk about Jung. In the first big wiccan revival in the ‘70s many prominent witches, like Janet and Steward Farrar, stepped back a bit from the ideas that the Gods were indeed outside of us, but instead incorporated Jungian philosophy into their faith. The Gods are then archetypes living deep in our subconsciousness, which we contact through prayer, spells and ritual. In that first revival this was a pretty common view of the world, which in turn, influenced a lot of books that were written in that time.
One of Jung’s theories is about the Anima and the Animus. Jung stated that, much like the yin-yang symbol, every woman had a bit of masculinity in her unconscious, called the Animus. And that the man had a bit of femininity in his unconscious, called the Anima. If the Animus or Anima was not recognized properly, it could have negative repercussions for the person in question. That part of the subconscious would then dictate the way the person would react in certain situations. For example, a woman acting in a way we would normally “expect” (back then) from a man, so through means of violence and aggression. So an integration, a joining from both the feminine and the masculine inside us is needed to become whole and to become a complete, spiritual being (sounds familiar, no?)

Last but not least, we have feminism. Contemporary witchcraft and paganism gained a lot of popularity in those same ‘70s, as well as the ‘60s, by being more Goddess oriented. Many of us, even now, come from the monotheistic religions which heavily centre on the divine masculine, without giving a female counterpart in that. Many of those religions are also often oppressive and discriminatory when it comes to the treatment of women. For many women witchcraft and paganism gives therefore a sense of freedom and equality not experienced before.
Witchcraft is also the craft of the marginalized, protects those who aren’t in a position to protect themselves and are an enormous source of empowerment for many.
With the arrival of Dianic wicca, a branch of wicca focussed solely on the Goddess, the Goddess movement within wicca and later witchcraft grew. Many were drawn to a path that celebrated women, and all that this entailed. This meant that the “divine feminine” became more and more important. The womb being the source of all creative power in the universe. The yoni being something not to be ashamed of, but instead something to be proud of and to take pride in. (I will talk about my views on all of this in a later post) An emphasis on sisterhood and the sacred bond we all share through the ancient mothers.

I believe all of this influenced and shaped the way we see gender when it comes to witchcraft and paganism. This all contributed in gender having the heavy influence that we see now. So now we know where it comes from… now what? Well, join me next time as I try to figure that out.

Offering bowl restoration

Many years ago, at a fantasy fair, I picked up a small black offering bowl with a small silver pentacle in it. I used it for a while, then put it away, then burned a candle in it which I couldn’t get out of it anymore, and so on. This bowl I have both loved and felt completely indifferent over in the years that I’ve had it. However, I wanted to make an offering bowl for Baduhenna, since I had none on my altar. So, time for some restoring and re-loving this small bowl!

Before! No longer black, stained and faded. I picked up my matte black and metallic silver paint and went to work.

Back to what it was when I bought it! Gorgeous matte black. I wasn’t done however, now it was time to link it to Baduhenna.

Baduhenna had a sacred forest somewhere in ancient Frisia. Because of that I wanted to add some greenery to Her bowl in the form of ferns. I have no idea why, but I associate ferns with Her. I also added the bindrune I made for Her a few years ago in silver paint. The bowl now sits proudly on my altar, filled with labradorite, garnet, moss, fern and a metal raven skull charm. I love it! And I actually feel much more connected to it than even when I first got it.

Sacred Space

GGaltar1

Last weekend was the winter edition of Castlefest, which is one of the biggest and most “gezellig” fantasy and pagan festival here in the Netherlands. The summer edition is amazing and we’ve been considering it our holiday for years now. This was the first year that we visited the winter edition and it was a lot of fun! {and cold… so cold!}

One of the things I wanted to look for on Castlefest was a statue of the Goddess that I had had my eye on for a while now. The Mother, sitting on a treestump holding her pregnant belly. I’ve loved it from afar for so long that I decided that I really wanted her to be the consort to my Horned God statue. And I finally found her! Which of course was all the more reason to redecorate my altar and sacred space in a big way.

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Isn’t she lovely? For years I had my altar set up in the same way, but this time I wanted to do it differently: more open space and make everything look prettier. I decided to put the statues on their own wooden disks, a lighter one for my new Mother Goddess. I decorated it with lots of gemstones, shells and feathers, as well as an adorable shell soap that I got from one of my coven sisters. The cauldron stands for the womb of the Goddess so I placed it at her feet. I love it!

GGaltar3

This amazing statue we got on our honeymoon to Glastonbury and I’ve spent forever trying to find a worthy companion. Because He is sitting down, I wanted Her to be sitting down as well, which wasn’t an easy task! The Horned God is sitting on a bigger wooden disk, surrounded by petrified wood, green gemstones and lots of forest findings. There is a small piece of antler there as well and of course more candles!

GGaltar4

For the centre I really wanted to play around with levels and different heights, so I took one of those small wall shelves and placed it upside down in the middle of my altar space. It works like a charm and looks great! Next to the pentacle are a pair of antlers and in front are a two hagstones, one bought in Glastonbury, one found years ago. I filled the space underneath with fake greenery, selenite and quartz.

The entire workspace now feels calming and open and I think I’ve found a set up that’ll suit me for years! {which is why I wanted to share it with you all} I’m very happy with how it all turned out and I’m sure this will help on my path of re-discovering witchcraft and paganism.

I’d love to hear about your sacred spaces, do you have one? What is it like? Let me know!

Dutch Myths: Hludana

MmemeHludana

It’s been a while, but welcome to the third instalment of my Dutch Mythology series! Previously we covered the Dutch Goddesses Arcanua and Baduhenna, now it’s time for another Goddess: Hludana.

What we know.

As with all Dutch deities, we only know bits and pieces, and Hludana is no different. We only know Her from five votive stones found, three of which in Germany and two in the Netherlands. Four stones were found within the area that used to be the Provence of Germania Inferior, so we know Hludana was most likely a Germanic Goddess.

hludana
Hludana inscription in Beetgum

The first four stones found, in Germany and Holdeurn (modern Nijmegen), give us nothing more than a name. This caused a lot of speculation as to who this Goddess was. The name sounds similar to known Goddesses like the Germanic Holda and the Norse Hlodyn, which caused Jacob Grimm to think that the earth Goddess Hlodyn and Hludana were the same Goddess. And for a while this was the general concensus: that Hludana was the Germanic name of the Hlodyn, or perhaps a variation of Holda. The discovery of a new votive stone in Friesland in the year 1888 shed some new light on this Goddess.

 

In the Frisian village Beetgum a discovery was made while excavating a terp. They found a votive stone where the lower part of a woman can still be seen, together with an inscription dedicated to the Goddess Hludana. This was the first stone to give us more information than just the name. The stone reads:

DEAE HLVDANAE
CONDVCTORES
PISCATVS MANCIPI
Q VALERIO SECV
NDO VSLM

Meaning: “To the goddess Hludana, the fishing contractors, when Quintus Valerius Secundus acted as tenant, fulfilled their vow willingly and deservedly.”

This tells us that Hludana was probably a Goddess of fishing. Since Beetgum at the time this stone was made was connected to the sea, as was Holdeurn, this would fit. The stones in Germany were all found along the river Rhine, so perhaps this Goddess was connected to this river as well.

What I think.

There is still some discussion going about the connection between Hludana, Hlodyn and Hulda. I think the stone found in Beetgum gives us the information we need to see that Hludana was a Goddess Herself and not an identification or different name for Hlodyn or Hulda.

hludana (1)
Hludana by Froukje Torensma

I see her as the Dutch Goddess of fishing, commerce and the river Rhine. Us Dutchies have always had deep connections to water, so a Goddess dedicated to fishing is something we would definitely have. Commerce is something that my own mind interjects with fishing: you do it so you can sell the fish and feed your family, hence the gold and coins in the aesthetic above.

Correspondences:

Rituals: fishing, water, anything work related.
Colours: blues and soft greens {water colours}, golds.
Symbols: fish, nets, winding rivers.
Stones: aquamarine, pearl, blue calcite, hagstones, simple river rocks.
Metals: gold, silver and copper {coin metals}.

Sources:

Book – Over de beoefening der Nederlandse mythologie, naar aanleiding der jongste tot dat onderwerp betrekkelijke geschriften – Johan van der Wal
Book – Nederlandsche volksoverleveringen en Godenleer – L. Ph. C. van den Bergh
Book – Teutonic Mythologie vol.1 – Jacob Grimm
Website: Livius.org
Website: Forgotten Gods – Reginheim
Website: Good Ol’ Wikipedia

So that’s it for the third installment of the Dutch Mythology series! Let me know what you think, or if you have a request for the next bit of mythology information. ‘Til next time!

Flash Fiction: Noor

noorraven
From MedievalWitch’s tumblr. It doesn’t exist anymore, if anyone knows whom I should credit, let me know!

Hi guys! Soooo…. It’s been a while {again, I know}. But, the good news is I come with a new story! Dutch Comic Con, together with the American Book Centre here in the Netherlands is organizing a short story competition. I’m so excited. It could be written in English or Dutch, and couldn’t be more than 1000 words. The last part was a bit more difficult for me, but somehow I managed. First I wrote a story called Death’s Diner {which I’m hoping to post after the competition is over}, but I worried that it lacked action. So I wrote another story. In the end I decided I liked Death’s Diner better, and sent that one in. But, I’m still rather proud of my other story, so I wanted to share this one with you.

It’s part Dutch mythology, part pen-and-paper RPG. Noor is the character I play in our Pathfinder games, this is a tiny bit of her backstory. She is a warpriest to the Goddess Baduhenna, Goddess of war and madness. Baduhenna, however, is a ‘real’ Goddess from Dutch mythology. I wrote about her here. So who knows, maybe this is how the Frisians actually won the battle against the Romans {grins maniacally} Are you ready? Here we go!

The rage burned in my stomach, the taste of revenge like blood on my tongue. The forest was filled with the sounds of battle, the screams of our oppressors. Although they were greater in number, the forest was on our side tonight.

I spotted him then, my prey. My vision blurred red as I advanced on him, the rest of the world falling away. It felt like I was about to burst out of my skin, like the fire inside was consuming me. Burning away all that made me sane. A feral grin spread on my face as I embraced the fire, embraced the madness. “Relanius!” I called.

The man before me turned to face me. For a moment, his face looked like that of a demon, evil curling around him in tendrils of shadow.

“You will pay with your blood for what you did to my sister, to my people,” I growled. “I swear it!”

“You cannot win this, Noor!” He called back. “This little rebellion will be struck down, just like the rest of your people.” This was the monster that killed my sister, and tossed her bloody and battered body onto our doorstep. This was the man who broke my parents and because of that, something within me finally broke free.

I wanted to wrap my hands around his throat and squeeze until the life left his eyes. I wanted to cut him for every pain he had caused my sister and watch his blood paint the forest floor red. I wanted his life.

“Yes.” A voice whispered on the breeze. “Now.”

I charged, my attack too wide but made up for by force. I didn’t draw blood, but the monster staggered. I kept advancing, blow after blow. He was more trained, but I was wilder and stronger than I had ever been. The rage within me like fire through my veins, strengthening my strikes.

The shadows over his face swirled like smoke, giving me a glimpse of eyes wide with terror before they burned with hell-fire once again.

I had scared the monster, I realised. A laugh tore out of my throat, ringing through the forest. Part of me wondered what this made me.

“Good” whispered the wind.

A larger part of me agreed with her. With each blow, which each drop of blood spilled, the red haze grew, until the entire world was pulsing like a heartbeat. The only thing that existed were me and my prey. Both of us locked in this fatal dance.

I was losing myself, a distant part of me realised, but I couldn’t stop it. I could only hate and laugh and strike.

Suddenly everything fell silent.

Clarity.

Pain.

So much pain.

The forest around me turned from red to green and black again in the light of the moon overhead. I looked down to the sword protruding from my chest in disbelief.

My killer had the same shock in his eyes, like he hadn’t believed he could win.

Blood filled my lungs. My sword clattered to the ground as my body lost all its borrowed strength. The forest was dimming around the edges, darkness coming to claim me. The gladius was pulled from my chest, a spray of blood coming with it. As my back hit the forest floor, the world went black.

The darkness was cold and absolute. A whisper of feathers sounded behind me and I turned, but still saw nothing.

“I heard your vow.” A female voice whispered, the same one I had heard in the forest. “Blood for blood. The blood of those invaders for the blood of your people, for your sister.”

“Yes.” I answered.

“I felt your fire. I feel it even now.” Her voice came from all directions and curled around me, like a cloak of ink and feathers.

“Yes.” The rage was still there, tempered now, away from the heat of battle.

“Do you wish to return? To finish what you had vowed to do?” She asked.

“Yes.” No hesitation.

“Will you not rest until your task is complete?” The voice filled with power, with promise.

“Yes.”

“Will you bleed them all for what they did to My people, to My forest?”

I realised then, who I was talking to. There was only one answer.

“This is my vow to you, Baduhenna, Goddess of our forest. Upon my blood and my soul, you have my word.” At these words warmth surrounded me.

“Rise, then, my daughter. Rise and show them that which they should really fear in My forest.”

I felt cold lips upon my forehead, the taste of blood once again on my tongue. I opened my eyes and looked up to the night sky.

Crows flew past the moon, their battle cries mixing with those all around me.

I pushed to my feet and took up my sword again. My body took a step forward without conscious thought. I felt distant, like I was one step behind myself, looking through the eyes of a stranger. Baduhenna, I realised as my hand reached out to touch an attacking enemy.

His eyes turn black, like a crow, before he turned to his closest ally and with a manic laugh threw himself at him.

A next attack was struck down with one swipe of my sword, the second blow digging deep into the man’s neck.

The Goddess was using my body to walk across the battlefield. A touch for one enemy, a fatal blow for the next. Another touch, another strike. On and on.

Feathers, black as night, always at the edge of my vision.

When dawn broke, the battle was done. Before me lay the bodies of my enemies.

“Is it done?” I asked my Goddess.

“No, my child, many cowards ran. The monster who took your sister lives still. They will scatter like the wind, but we will find them.” Answered She. “Your journey has only just begun.”

I smiled. “Good.”

So there you have it! A bit of mythology, a bit of fiction, a bit of geekery, a lot of blood {muaha} I need to wait a little bit longer to know if I made it to the top 10 of the story competition, but as soon as I know, you’ll know! Let me know what you think about this one, I’d love to hear from you guys! ‘Til next time!

Dutch Myths: Baduhenna

MMemeBaduhenna

Welcome to the second piece in the series on Dutch mythology! This time I wanted to share a favourite of mine: Baduhenna. Not a lot is known of this Frisian Goddess, which makes her all the more intriguing.

What we know.

The Roman writer Tacitus is the only one who gives us any information on this Goddess. Tacitus writes of ‘the Battle of Baduhenna’, an attack by the Frisians on the Romans who had invaded their lands. For a long time the Frisians didn’t mind the Roman presence, they worked with them and lived alongside them. This changed, however, when Ollenius took control of the area. Ollenius demanded taxes of the Frisians, to be paid in aurochs and skins, something that the Frisians did not have. According to Tacitus the Frisians sold all they could to make the payments, including some who sold their wives and daughters into slavery.

It all came to a head in the year 28 A.D. when the Frisians formed a small army and decided

Baduhennaforest
Artist unknown

to attack the Roman fortress Castellum Flevum, where Ollenius was hiding. The Romans fought back and got reinforcements from what is now Nijmegen. In response, the Frisians pulled back into ‘the Forest of Baduhenna’, a well known terrain for the Frisians. This, and the use of light weaponry like handaxes, gave the Frisians the upperhand in the battle. They killed 900 Roman soldiers that day. Tacitus writes that the Romans were so paranoid, so afraid of betrayal, that they killed another 400 of their own soldiers.

In his work ‘Germanica’ Tacitus states that it’s very common for the Germanics to name their forests after a deity, which was then considered sacred to this deity and was seen as a place of worship. This is the reason why scholars believe Baduhenna to be a Goddess. The name Baduhenna can be split into two parts; the suffix -henna is more often used to denote the deity is female, while the prefix Badu or Badw means battle. Which is why Baduhenna is seen as the Frisian Goddess of Battle and War.

What I think.

With what we know of this Goddess one can’t help but wonder if another Goddess of madness and battle, the Morrigan, is perhaps related. One of the faces of the Morrigan, named Badb {see the similarity there?}, can fly over the battlefield in the shape of a crow and bring panic, confusion and paranoia to the enemy. If Badb and Baduhenna are related, this might explain the paranoia in the Roman soldiers, the reasons why they killed 400 of their own men.

baduhennacrow
Artist unknown

It paints quite a striking image, the underdog, the small Frisian army creeping through the dark forest as the crows circle above. A crow flying through the forest, Her forest, crying out to claim victory for those who worship her, and instill fear into the hearts of those who oppose Her people. A cry for blood and vengeance. This the only sound piercing through the quiet just before the battle. The crow has chosen, the fight begins.

To me, Baduhenna is the battlecrow. She is both a Goddess of the forest and of war and madness. She is the Goddess who chooses the victors in battle and brings fear and paranoia to those on the other side of the field. She might even be related to the Morrigan, the Goddess Badb brought to the Frisians by the people of England. I like to see them as connected, sort of as a Dutch version of this Great Queen of War.

Correspondences:

Rituals: standing up for yourself, battle, bringing madness. {you shouldn’t, but you could…}
Colours: black and dark green or black and dark red.
Symbols: crows, handaxe, black feathers.
Stones: garnet, hematite, onyx, git, black obsidian.
Metals: steel and any dark metal.

Sources:

Book – Over de beoefening der Nederlandse mythologie, naar aanleiding der jongste tot dat onderwerp betrekkelijke geschriften – Johan van der Wal
Book – Nederlandsche volksoverleveringen en Godenleer – L. Ph. C. van den Bergh
Article (PDF): Baduhenna – Rijksuniversiteit Groningen (no longer available)
Website: Forgotten Gods – Reginheim
Website: Good Ol’ Wikipedia

So that’s it for the second installment of the Dutch Mythology series! Let me know what you think, or if you have a request for the next bit of mythology information. ‘Til next time!

Dutch Myths: Arcanua

MMemeArcanua
Dutch mythology meme 1/? by marjolijnmakes

As most of you might have figured by now, I love religious history and mythology. In my spare time I love to read myths and legends from all over the world and see how their Gods, Goddesses and other creatures were seen and maybe even worshipped. A few years ago that curiousity got me thinking: what about my own cultural heritage? What about the Dutch Gods and Goddesses of Old? I’ve been researching on and off ever since and have been surprised with what I’ve found. So far I’ve uncovered 29 Gods and Goddesses specific to the Dutch region, not including the Germanic Gods. In this series I want to share some of my findings with you, and introduce you into the marvelous world of Dutch mythology!

What we know.

In 1976 in Burchten, a region in the provence of Limburg, amateur archeologists found the foundations of a Roman building. During excavation archeologists found a bronze and enamel rooster, with the name of the Goddess Arcanua stamped on it. Later, in 1982, other archeologists found a small bronze leaf in the same area. The name Arkanua was stamped into it, leading historians to believe that what they had thought was a Roman villa, was actually a temple dedicated to the Goddess Arcanua or Arkanua. The name Arcanua means ´the mysterious one´ or ´the mystical one´ in Latin. It is believed that She was a local Goddess who was was revered in the region before the invasion of the Romans.HaanArcanuaLimbMuseum

The bronze and enamel rooster is the biggest source of information we have on this Goddess. In the area surrounding the temple, more roosters like this one have been found, but this is the only one with and inscription. It reads: DEAE ARCANVE VLPIVS/ VERINVS VETERANVS LEG VI V•S•M•L, meaning ‘To the Goddess Arcanua Ulpius Verinus, veteran of the sixth legion, has redeemed his vow, willingly and with reason. The mention of the legion and the name Ulpius Verinus makes it very likely that this little rooster is older than originally thought, probably dating from somewhere between 123- and 142 A.D. Which makes it the oldest mention of the term DAEA we have to date.

The statue is made of bronze, with enamel eyes, beak and wings. The back of the rooster is hollow, which leads historians to believe that it was used to burn candles or perhaps oil in it’s cavity. This statue differs from others found in the Netherlands, which are usually sandstone altarstones depicting humanoid figures, sometimes accompanied by animals. This could mean that the rooster was an important attribute to the Goddess, or it could mean that the statue itself is not from the Netherlands, but could be from Brittania, where more of these roosters were found.

The leaf gives us little more information about who this Goddess was. It reads: D/ ARKANV/ AE/ M•I•AM/ L•M, which we can compement to D(AEA) ARKANVAE M(ARCUS) I(ULIUS) AM(—) L(IBENS) M(ERITO), which means ‘to the Goddess Arcanua Marcus Iulius Am— has devoted this, willingly and with reason’. Nothing is known for sure about Marcus, or why he would devote anything to this Goddess.

What I think.

Arcanua
Once Wed

We don’t know anything else about this Goddess, what she stood for, what her attributes are, it’s all guesswork. So this is what I think this Goddess was. The rooster is a symbol of the dawn, of the rising sun. Combining this with the idea that the rooster was used to burn candles or oil, it could mean that Arcanua was a Goddess of light. A Goddess of the morning and the rising sun, the light after the darkness.

The meaning of her name, ‘the mysterious one’, could point to Her being a Goddess of the Underworld, many Goddesses of mystery are also Goddesses connected to the Underworld. The keepers of the hidden, that which is behind the veil. Many of these Goddesses, like Hecate, are also seen as Goddesses of magic. Arcanua has the word ‘arcane’ almost screaming at you when you see it. Furthermore, roosters are seen by the Celts and Germanics as messengers to the Underworld. A rooster would cry out if there was danger to the soul of a fallen. Combine that with the fact that the rooster was devoted by a veteran, and Arcanua might have been a Goddess who brought the souls of slain warriors to the Underworld.

Correspondences:

Rituals: endings and new beginnings, greeting the sun, unveiling mysteries
Colours: golds and bronzes, set off with bright yellow, red or blue
Symbols: roosters, candles, a golden veil, (autumn) leaves, the sun
Stones: amber, citrine, goldstone
Metals: gold, bronze

Sources:

Book – Antwoord op de vraag, door het Zeeuwse Genootschap de Wetenschappen – Jona Willem te Water
Book – Over de beoefening der Nederlandse mythologie, naar aanleiding der jongste tot dat onderwerp betrekkelijke geschriften – Johan van der Wal
Book – Verhandelingen over het Westland – Derk Buddingh
Book – Nederlandsche volksoverleveringen en Godenleer – L. Ph. C. van den Bergh
Article (PDF) – Born-Burchten – W.J.H. Willems
Website – rgsm.de (in Dutch)
Website – the Limburs Museum (in Dutch)

So that’s it for the first installment of a new series I want to do on Dutch mythology. I’d love to know what you thought of this one so far, or if you have a request on which Deity I should do next. ‘Til next time!

Dutch Deities for D&D pt.2

arduinna_by_cyrilbarreaux-d4w07yt

Are you guys and gals ready for part 2 of our Dutch Deities for RPG’s series? ‘Cause here it is! Last time I gave you a quick rundown on a few Dutch deities with their corresponding alignments, domains and symbols. Quick and ready to use for your favourite pen-and-paper RPG. Today we’ll dive a little deeper into the myths surrounding these deities and why I chose these specific domains and symbols for them. So here we go!

Arcanua
There is not much that we know about this Goddess. All that was found was a bronze and enamelled statue of a rooster, standing on a leaf. The name Arcanua was on a small bronze plaque. Her name means ‘the mystical one’ or ‘the mysterious one’, which is why I linked her with the trickery domains. The back of the rooster has a hole in it, presumably to either burn oil in it or stand a candle. Of course the rooster itself has some ties to the sun and the early morning light, hence the light domain.

Arduinna
The Goddess of the Ardennes. These vast forests were even bigger back in the day, probably spanning a good part of the Netherlands as well. A statue of Arduinna was found where she was sitting on top of a boar, hence the fur and animal domain. She is similar to the Goddess Diana, a protector of the forest and its creatures.

Aulrinia
Not a Goddess, but the mythology fit too perfectly to not include her. She was a famous völva, a Germanic priestess believed to have gotten her powers from the elves, which is why I made her Elven. The völva were seers, healers and witches. The name Aulrinia is closely related to the word Alruin, which is the Dutch name for Mandrake, which explains her symbol.

Baduhenna
Of all the Dutch Gods and Goddesses, this is my favourite. Her myths tell of a fierce battle taking place in ‘the Forest of Baduhenna’, between the Frisians and the Roman oppressors. The Frisians were familiar with the terrain and managed to kill 900 Roman soldiers. Then something weird happened. The remaining Romans, filled with paranoia, killed another 400 of their own men. This gave Baduhenna a quite fierce reputation of being a Goddess of battle, war and madness.
The name Baduhenna also has some connections to the Celtic Morrigan, another Goddess of battle and madness. The suffix -henna is simply a way to note that she is female. Badu looks and sounds similar to Badb, the battlecrow. She is part of the Morrigan and is known to fly over, in crow form, and bless her favoured side of the battle, while causing confusion and fear to the other side. This is why, at least to me, Baduhenna has a strong connection to ravens, and perhaps is even an aspect of the Raven Queen from D&D’s fifth edition.

Fosite
A God/dess worshipped on the Dutch isle of Ameland. They are known both as male, under the names Fosete, Fosite and Forste, and female under the names Fosite and Fosta. Which why for this purpose they are both male and female, a duality within one deity. The name seems to be linked to the Germanic God Forsite, the God of justice and peace. Fosite had holy wells dedicated to them on Ameland, which is why their symbol is a clear drop of water. People who got water out of these wells did so without speaking. This was done both out of respect, and because they apparently were a force to be reckoned with when angered.

Hesus
The only God I could convert into an Evil alignment. The only evidence of this God has been found in France, but scholars believe that the town of Hees gets its name from this God, and therefore believe that he may have been worshipped in the Netherlands as well. In Hees there was an enormous linden tree which was probably used for human sacrifice, perhaps to this fearsome God. In 1903 the tree fell after being struck by lightning.

Hludana
In several rivers in both the Netherlands and Germany votive stones have been uncovered naming this Goddess. A few of these reference to the stones being offered up by fishing guilds that resided in the area. Quite simple and straight forward, this one!

Irmin
A God of war which was worshipped on the Dutch Veluwe. He is believed to be related to the Germanic Tyr or Tiwaz, another God of war. Possibly this God was one of the most important Patron Gods of the Saxons. The Saxons celebrated their festivals around a huge pillar called the ‘Irminsul‘, which was believed to be a symbol for the Yggdrasil or ‘World Tree’.

Jecha
Not a lot is known of this Goddess. She is a Saxon Goddess of the hunt who was worshipped in Drenthe. The name Jecha is derived from the word ‘jach’ meaning hunt. This Goddess is believed to be similar to the Goddess Diana, Goddess of the forest and hunting.

Lady Holle
This is a bit of a tough one, because this is where a lot of folklore, myth and fairytales start mixing together. In the Netherlands the tale of ‘Vrouw Holle‘ is a very popular fairytale, speaking of an enchantress who makes it snow in the world by fluffing up a pillow. She punishes laziness and rewards those who do household chores without complaint. She is thought to have connection with the before-mentioned Hludana. The brothers Grimm stated in their books on Teutonic mythology the possibility of a Germanic Goddess called Holle, Holda or Huldra. So we’re not sure if she even was a Goddess, or just a fairytale, but I think she still makes and awesome deity.

Meda
A Goddess of purity, innocence and virginity who was also called Medea. She was called upon by young daughters for protection. There is no connection with light in itself, but a vision of beauty and purity is in my mind one of goodness, healing and hope.

Nehalennia
The most famous and well-known Goddess of the Dutch pantheon. She was a Goddess who was worshipped in Zeeland and was connected to our North Sea. Dozens of votive stones dedicated to her have been found, all of them thanking this Goddess for a safe sea passage. Some of these stones were recovered in England, meaning that she was worshipped on both sides of the passage. A lot is known of this Goddess, but the most important aspects of her are that as a Seagoddess and protector of travellers.

Sandraugina
In Brabant a votive stone dedicated to this Goddess was found, sacrificed by worshippers of her temple. The stone was decorated with cornucopias and branches filled with leaves and apples. Which is why Sandraugina is thought to be a Goddess of abundance and prosperity.

Tamfana
Another difficult one. Looking at the history books, there is only one mention of the name Tamfana, which speaks of the destruction of the sanctity of Tamfana. The people there were celebrating one of their holy festivals, and were said to be too drunk to fight back. It’s not know where this sanctity was located or even if this Tamfana was a God or a Goddess, or perhaps neither. Since -fana means sanctity it’s entirely possible the name of the deity was actually Tan or Tam.
However, the people of Oldenzaal claim that this Goddess is bound to the Tankenberg, and more in particular a large stone that lies there. Some interesting myths surround this place, supposedly there was a temple dedicated to Tamfana there, where the Goddess would use a golden chalice to divine a person’s future.

Viradectis
Votive stones dedicated to this Goddess have been found in Belgium, Scotland and the Netherlands. Not a lot is known of this Goddess, but the stones have been sacrificed by the Tungri, a Germanic tribe of well known tradesmen and seafarers. They probably traded grain, which was a popular product shipped from Belgica.

So there you have it. A list of awesome Dutch Deities for you to use in your next D&D/Pathfinder/RPG session. If you have any questions or would like some more info on any of these, or other Dutch deities, feel free to let me know! Are you suddenly inspired to make a war cleric of Baduhenna or a tempest cleric of Nehalennia? I’d love to hear about it!

Dutch Deities for D&D pt.1

baduhenna_by_marjolijn_ashara-d8u21uw
the Goddess Baduhenna, Goddess of War and Madness

…and other RPGs of course! Being pagan I love reading and researching mythology. A year ago I started looking into my own countries history. I knew we worshipped the Germanic Gods here, but were there a few Gods of our own? This curiosity led to a year of study and research and, up to now, 37 Dutch Gods, and my study is far from over.

In August I needed a new character for our Pathfinder campaign after my beloved Aasimar Oracle perished. I decided on a Human Warpriest, called Noor. For her deity I chose the Dutch Goddess Baduhenna, a Frisian Goddess closely connected to Badh and the Morrigan. She is amazingly fun to play! We’re looking into D&D 5th edition, which is just amazing, and in the back of the Player Handbook there are lists of real Gods and Goddesses converted to a format usable for D&D and other RPGs. So I figured, I have all this info on Dutch Deities, why not do the same and share it with the rest of the geeks?

So here is a short list of Deities that are usable in RPG. In part 2 {coming next week find it here!} I’ll give short backgrounds on each deity’s myth and how I came to their lore. Thing is, on a lot of Dutch Deities we don’t have a lot more than the name. Take Arcanua, of Her we only found a bronze statuette of a rooster with Her name on it. In the back you can set a candle. We know Her name means ‘the mysterious’ or ‘the hidden’. Furthermore, roosters are a symbol of the dawn. Hence the Light and Trickery domains. I included two sets of domains, the first set is for D&D 5e, the second for Pathfinder. Of course you can mix and match as you please, that’s the beauty of these systems. So here you go and please, let me know what you think!

Deity

Alignment

Domains

Symbol

Arcanua, Goddess of mystery and light

CN

Light, Trickery

Animal (Feather), Sun, Trickery

A bronze rooster and golden sun

Arduinna, Goddess of woodlands

N

Nature, Life

Animal (Fur), Plant

A silver boar

Aulrinia, minor Elven Goddess of magic and prophecy

LN

Arcana, Knowledge

Knowledge, Magic, Travel

A root in the shape of a human

Baduhenna, Goddess of freedom and madness

CN

Trickery, War

Liberation, Madness

A red raven and silver moon

Fosite, both God and Goddess of peace and justice

LG

Knowledge, Life

Law, Protection

A clear drop of water

Hesus, God of vegetation and sacrifice

NE

Death, Nature

Plant, Decay

A humanoid figure hanging on a tree

Hludana, Goddess of fishing and rivers

NG

Nature

Water

A fish above a woven basket

Irmin, God of war and strength

LG

War

Strength, War (Tactics)

An Irminsul

Jecha, Goddess of woodlands and the hunt

N

Nature, Life

Animal, Luck

A simple bow and arrow

Lady Holle, Goddess of magic, winter and weaving

CG

Arcana, Tempest

Magic, Water, Weather

Three snowflakes in a triangle

Meda, Maiden Goddess of purity and light

LG

Life, Light

Healing, Sun

Three golden rays angling down

Nehalennia, Goddess of the sea and travel

N

Nature, Tempest

Protection, Travel, Water

A ship’s wheel

Sandraudiga, Goddess of prosperity and abundance

NG

Nature, Life

Healing, Luck, Plant (Growth)

A red apple with green leafy vines

Tamfana, Goddess of joy and prophecy

CG

Arcana, Knowledge

Knowledge, Magic

A golden chalice

Viradectis, Goddess of trade

N

Knowledge

Knowledge, Travel (Trade)

Three falling golden coins

As I stated before, here in the Netherlands we also worshipped the Germanic Gods, as well as some of the Norse ones. There are several names we Dutchies used for these Gods and I listed them below. So if you do decide to use the Dutch Pantheon, you can easily include the Germanic Gods for some extra flavour!

Austrōn = Ostara, Goddess of spring

Donar = Thor, God of thunder

Frea = Freya, Goddess of beauty and love

Freke = Frigg, Goddess of love and marriage

Frija = Freya, Goddess of beauty and love

Ing = Freyr, God of male virility and prosperity

Saxnot = Tiwaz/Tyr, God of law and heroic glory

Thunar = Thor, God of thunder

Weda = Odin, God of magic, prophecy and healing

Wōdanaz = Odin, God of magic, prophecy and healing

Wotan = Odin, God of magic, prophecy and healing

A note on Frigg/Freya, in myths they are so often interchangeable that scholars now believe they might be the same Goddess. They call Her Frijjō for this purpose.

So that’s it for now, see you next week for part 2!

How to: drawing the God and Goddess

GoddessGodhowto2

Oh my, my first tutorial! I’ve been drawing these little Gods and Goddesses for a while now, and my circle sisters kept asking me how I do it. So, yesterday I gave them a little class on how to draw the simple God and Goddess shapes, after which we painted some beautiful stones and wooden disks. Then I thought: I should make a tutorial out of this. So here you go! A small photo tutorial on how I draw the God and Goddess!

The Goddess:

GoddessStep1.jpg

Step 1: draw a small circle, this will be the head of the Goddess.

GoddessStep2

Step 2: draw (or visualise) two guiding lines going straight down from the side of Her head, starting where Her ears would be.

GoddessStep3

Step 3: draw a curved line, staying within the guide lines. This will be Her boobies, waist and hips. Leave space between the head and Her torso for Her neck and shoulders, about two neck heights.

GoddessStep4

Step 4: repeat on other side.

GoddessStep5

Step 5: start at the top of the curved lines, Her armpits as it were, and follow the curve of the head up. You can let Her hands touch if you like, but Her arms will look way too long.

GoddessStep6

Step 6: curve back down and form the shoulders and neck. Try to keep the arms the same width by following the outer lines back down again. {practice, practice!}

GoddessStep7

Step 7: clean Her up a bit! And (optional) add some curves to Her boobies and a little doodle to Her belly. Tada! You’ve drawn a cute little Goddess!

GoddessStep8

Step 8: experiment! Give Her a bigger belly by going outside of the guiding lines, make Her arms bend at the elbows a bit more, etc. etc.

The God:

GodStep1

Step 1: draw a circle again, this will be the head.

GodStep2

Step 2: draw the body. Almost a kite-shape, starting from the neck and slanting down. Round the edges a bit and flatten the base.

GodStep3

Step 3: add antlers. And that’s it actually, the God is a lot easier to draw!

GodStep4

Step 3.2: how I draw the antlers. First a short line curving up from the head. The second line is a longer one making a slow curve. Thirdly a short little twist from the last quarter of the second line. Simple, yet effective

GoddessGodhowto

And that’s it! Now you know! Fill them with symbols to make them a specific God or Goddess, like the Goddess Baduhenna:

baduhenna_by_marjolijn_ashara-d8u21uw

Or make them really tiny and paint them on some beautiful stones to make elemental markers:

GoddessGodDoodle them, zentangle them, use them in you mandalas, oh the possibilities! I hope you enjoyed this first ever tutorial and if it inspired you to make some art of your own, I would love to see it!